Elon juniors honored by Goldwater program

Kelsey Van Dalfsen has been named a 2012 Goldwater Scholarship recipient while Julie Ronecker received an Honorable Mention.


Junior biochemistry major Kelsey Van Dalfsen this month became the second Elon University student ever to win a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which supports top American college students with career aspirations in mathematics, science or engineering.

Recipients receive up to $7,500 toward expenses for undergraduate tuition, fees, books, and room and board for the upcoming academic year.

Supported by the Goldwater Foundation, a committee weighs nominees submitted by the faculties of colleges and universities across the nation. More than 1,100 students applied for the scholarship. The foundation’s board of trustees considers field of study, career objectives and “the extent to which that individual has the commitment and potential to make a significant contribution to his or her field.”

A native of Brier, Wash., Van Dalfsen is an Elon College Fellow, a Lumen Scholar, and serves as president of Elon’s student chapter of the American Chemical Society. Her undergraduate research interests are in understanding how high glucose levels cause an increase in heart cell death in diabetic patients, a topic of intense personal interest because of the way both conditions affect a relative.

Van Dalfsen plans to pursue a Ph.D. in molecular biology or biochemistry and conduct medical research. She is the daughter of Gary & Jill Van Dalfsen of Brier, Wash.

“Being selected as a Goldwater Scholar is a tremendous honor, as it means I have joined the ranks of some of the best undergraduate scientists in the nation,” said Van Dalfsen, a member of the Kappa Delta sorority. “It recognizes my hard work and achievements, while giving me motivation to continue working hard and with enthusiasm towards my goal of being a medical research scientist.”

Another recent illustration of Van Dalfsen’s scholarly acumen was the American Society for Cell Biology’s 2011 annual meeting, to which the Elon student received a grant to cover travel expenses for presenting research findings in a poster session.

“Kelsey is not only hardworking and dedicated, she really understands the science that she’s learned so far and can apply it to her research, which usually doesn’t happen until you’re in graduate school,” said Assistant Professor Vickie Moore in the Department of Chemistry and Van Dalfsen’s research mentor. “She came to me in her sophomore year looking for research opportunities. At that point she already knew she wanted to get her Ph.D., which speaks to her focus.”

Van Dalfsen’s biochemistry classmate, university junior Julie Ronecker, of St. Louis, also received Honorable Mention in the program. With undergraduate research interests in biology, neurology and Circadian rhythm, Ronecker – herself an Elon College Fellow and a Lumen Scholar – plans to pursue a career in clinical pediatric research focused in cancer biology.

Ronecker, daughter of Colleen Corbett and Jerry Ronecker of St. Louis, Mo., is double majoring in public health. Assistant Professor Ben Evans is her research mentor, and Ronecker serves as president of Global Medical Brigades, participates with the WINGS Pediatric and Palliative Care Program as an expressive art therapist in St. Louis, and works as an organic chemistry teaching assistant.

She is also a member of the Alpha Xi Delta and works with New Student Orientation at the university.

Authorized by Congress in 1986, the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program honors former U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater. It fosters and encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of math, the natural sciences and engineering. The scholarship is considered the premier undergraduate award of its type in those fields.

Elon alum Geoffrey Lynn received a Goldwater Scholarship in 2005, the first Elon student ever to do so. In 2009 and 2010, Amanda Clarke received Honorable Mentions in the competition.

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